Female Students Debunking Industrial Arts Misconceptions

Senior Emily Lowery recently showcased her state award-winning engineering projects to Michigan State legislators.   Her projects earned second, third, and honorable mention awards at the Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society competition. 

She also applied and was accepted to take her projects to Lansing where State Representatives and Senators, as well as guests to the Capitol building that day, were able to see the projects and talk with students. 

“It was  a great chance to bring awareness of these kinds of classes and how important they are to keep in high schools,” Lowery said. 

To be accepted, Lowery had to make application to attend the legislative event. She was accepted and spent a day last week showcasing her projects and talking about them with legislators and guests in the Capitol.

TKHS industrial arts teacher Scott Meyers said it was a great honor for Lowery to be able to take her projects to Lansing. “They only wanted the best of the best in the state,” he said.

She said students from 10 different schools attended this first-of-its-kind event. Some showcased woods projects while others displayed engineering and architectural projects.

Lowery admits she was again outnumbered by the number of male students in Lansing.

“There is a stigma that it’s only a guys’ class, but it doesn’t bother me. I just like the class and I like putting things together and figuring out how they work,” said Lowery.

She’s taking engineering classes for three years in high school and got her first taste of what the classes might be like through a 21st Century Skills class in middle school.

“I took art classes and I liked that. I wanted to do animation,” Lowery said. “I ended up taking engineering and really liked it.”

Lowery plans to study interdisciplinary engineering at Grand Valley State University next fall and hopes to move into the bio-medical engineering field.

Meyers said fewer than 10 percent of the students in his engineering and architecture classes are female.

“It’ shop. That’s the stigma that’s still with it today,” said Meyers. 

But he said the female students who have taken the engineering and design classes do very well. “The girls are willing to work as part of a team. They’re able to problem solve and they come up with different ideas to solve problems,” Meyers said.

Meyers said the industrial arts classes aren’t “shop” classes and are open to all students - male and female. They’re also suited for students who intend to go on to college as well as those who may be looking at other alternatives.

Sophomore Baili Bowers said she feels like there is a wide misconception and general misunderstanding of the engineering classes. She also entered projects in the MITES contest and earned state honors.

“When I told them (my friends) I went to state in MITES, they just kind of looked at me like what’s that?” she said. “But then I explained it to them and showed them what I’ve done and they think it’s really cool.”

Bowers said she likes both the engineering and architectural offerings in the classes. “Architecture is the artistic form of it for me and then engineering is more serious and technical. I like them both,” Bowers said.

Bowers earned a divisional award and first at the state this year and plans to continue taking engineering and architecture classes, even though she’s far outnumbered by male students in the classroom.

“I really like being able to make things and I like math and science. This is really a creative and technical field,” Bowers said.

As a sophomore, she’s already looking to the future and is considering a possible double major in architecture and engineering.

“These are great classes and we’re really fortunate to have them and  have as much equipment and programs as we do,” Bowers said. “Some schools don’t even have these kinds of classes.”

Bowers is in two engineering and architecture classes this year. “They are my  two favorites hours of the day,” she said. “I love it and I hope maybe more girls will try it. It’s not for everyone, but I wish more girls would try it.”

According to  the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force in 2014,  only 7.2 percent of mechanical engineers are women, 17.2 percent of industrial engineers are women, and 8.3 percent of electrical and electronics engineers are women.